Our story so far: Allison is an American high-school student who has transferred to a private prep school in Japan. She is a transfer student, and in this Japan, that means she will be the cause of upheaval and strife. Although she really doesn’t understand what’s going on around her most of the time, she is starting to understand White Shadow, a computer virus that can infect the human brain. Or something like that. It seems Allison is pretty good with computers, and may be the person to stop the scourge. Those around her sort of take this for granted. She’s a transfer student, after all.
Last night the virus got into the video system of a local dance club, and the results were horriffic. Allison has decided to investigate, and she has been joined by her friends. As soon as they entered the building, however, they were confronted by a man with a gun. While he was talking, Alice simply vanished.
If you would like to read from the beginning, the entire story is here.
“Damn! Find her! She must not escape!” The man with the gun gestured frantically. Spotlights stabbed through the darkness all around the group, and from the shadows men emerged slowly, menacingly, clad in the heavy rubberized suits of the Institute, faces invisible behind reflective glass. Each bore a wicked-looking rifle, raised and ready to fire as they swayed back and forth, sweeping their headlamps around the night club.
Ruchia fought down a rising sense of panic. She might have lost it completely but Seiji was holding on to her arm, his touch reassuring. He was standing completely still, staring at the man who had stopped them, his face a mask of pure rage. Yet he held himaelf, one hand on Ruchia’s arm, the other on Tasuke’s shoulder. It looked like Tasuke was about ready to attack the nearest Institute man, if Seiji wasn’t holding her back. Ruchia wished she had a little of her friend’s courage.
Kaneda was just standing there, looking around himself in confusion, as if he had just awakened out of a dream to find himself there.
The man who had first accosted them strode up to Ruchia and shouted down into her face. He was a big man, with broad shoulders, who wore his silk suit jacket like a military uniform, his tie knotted with absolute precision. His black hair was cut short. “Where’s the other one?” he screamed.
Ruchia cowered before the man’s anger, grateful for the support from Seiji. Her knees were shaking. “What other one?”
“The other girl, stupid! the one who was standing right next to you!” Ruchia could feel the man’s spittle on her face.
“T-t-tasuki? She’s right there.”
“Not her, stupid! The other one!”
Ruchia felt the tears welling up in her eyes. What was this crazy old man talking about?
“What the heck are you talking about?” challenged Seiji. “We’re all right here!”
“Don’t play stupid with me! There were five of you!”
Tasuke jumped into the fray. “What are you, stupid? Can’t you even count?”
One of the shambling hulks in the Institute suits stepped to the side of his leader. “Uh, sir?” His voice came through a tinny speaker on his chest. “We’ve double-checked the surveillance cams. There were only these four.”
“Just the four, sir.”
“Damn! That can’t be!”
“I’m sorry, sir, but…”
“Damn that White Shadow!”
What the heck is he talking about? Ruchia wondered. Anyone could see that there were four of us when we came in. She looked at her friends to see if they might have some idea what this guy’s problem was. She thought that Kaneda was about to say something, but then he thought better of it. He went back to looking confused.
Ruchia had a bad feeling as the man looked them over. He was deciding what to do with them, she was sure. She found herself wishing that Allison were there. This was definitely transfer-student sort of trouble. Ruchia wondered why they had even agreed to meet Allison here.
“Wrap ’em up,” the man said. “Let’s get them back to the institute. They might be contaminated.”
“Hey! You can’t do that!” Tasuke protested. “We’re fine!”
The big man smiled grimly as the institute men in their protective suits closed in around the four of them. “I will be the judge of that.”
Ruchia screamed, Tasuke struggled and kicked, Seiji shouted in defiance, but it made no difference.
“You can’t do this!” Seiji shouted. “Where are you taking us?”
As they pulled a heavy black hood over her head, Ruchia thought she heard Kaneda say, “To the room with no doors.” She heard a thud and Kaneda grunted.
“Kaneda!” Ruchia called. “Kaneda! Are you OK?” He didn’t answer. Hands were on her now, cold, impersonal, heavily gloved hands, grabbing her arms, her legs, her chest, wrapping aroung her middle and lifting her up as if she weighed nothing. She screamed, she kicked, to no effect. She had never felt so vulnerable as the hands moved over her body. “Help me,” she sobbed, but no one answered.
From a catwalk high above the floor of the discotheque Allison watched as her friends were bundled up. Her gut wrenched when she heard Ruchia’s piteous plea for help, and her blood boiled when they hit Kaneda over the head to silence him.
Allison had been wise to get there early, to slip in unnoticed and conceal herself. Had she even suspected that the institute would take her friends, however, she never would have done it. Now it was her fault they were in trouble, and it was going to be up to her to get them out.
But what was the institute? She had guessed that White Shadow came from there, but now it seemed like they were actually fighting against it. Did that make them her allies? Her gut replied with a resounding ‘no’. Perhaps they had a common enemy, but that didn’t make them friends.
Now the Institute had taken her friends. To the room with no doors, Kaneda had said, before they pummeled him into silence. What did that mean? Allison didn’t know, but she suspected White Shadow might.
The three men sat in the grass beneath a mighty tree. They wore their monk’s robes carelessly, exposing their knobby legs and sometime more, causing more than one passerby to avert their gaze with a stricken expression. They sat in order of height; on the lap of the middle monk there was a laptop computer. All three stared at the screen with rapt attention, the colors from the screen lighting up their faces in a steady progression through the spectrum.
“It’s terrible,” the tall one said.
“It’s wonderful,” the short one agreed.
“What are we looking at again?” the one in the middle asked.
“It’s a computer virus,” the short one said.
“It’s God,” the tall one said, nodding in agreement.
“Truth,” the short one said.
“Lies,” the tall one agreed.
“It’s making my lap sweaty,” the middle one said, lifting up the computer.
“That’s what she said!” the other two said in unison. The broke out laughing.
“Next time,” the one in the middle said, “we need to find someone else to be the straight man.”
“Next time…” the tall one said.
“Next time…” the short one said.
“That Seiji boy was fun,” the middle one said.
“Very serious young man.”
“Wouldn’t know a joke if it suffocated him in his sleep.”
“I hope they haven’t killed him yet.”
The three men nodded solemnly, then began to laugh.